Tuesday night brings a pair of in-state, in-conference, ranked showdowns between some of the best teams in the nation. Undefeated, top-ranked Baylor hosts Texas Tech, fresh off an impressive win against Kansas. And in Tuscaloosa, the Crimson Tide will try to avoid the fate their football team suffered Monday night when they host the surging Tigers.
As always, Kevin Sweeney is with me to make our college basketball bets. Let's get into the games.
Season record: 18-18
Guest pickers: 12-7-1
Time: 7 p.m. ET | ESPN3
Spread: Texas Tech +12 (-118) | Baylor -12 (-110)
Over/Under: Under 135 (-110) | Over 135 (-110)
Moneyline: Texas Tech (+500) | Baylor (-901)
The Red Raiders turned around quickly from a narrow road loss to Iowa State on Wednesday to beat then-No. 6 Kansas at home on Saturday. That win allowed Texas Tech to shoot up six spots in the AP Poll ahead of their first meeting of the season against top-ranked Baylor.
Texas Tech averaged 53 PPG in three contests against ranked opponents this season before its victory over the Jayhawks. TTU was 1-2 in such games before going for 75 points—about its season average—against KU. The Red Raiders have a suffocating defense that allows the 12th-fewest points in DI (58.3) and ranks fifth on KenPom.com in adjusted defensive efficiency.
The TTU offense isn't lethal—it's tied for 103rd in points per game (75.7). However, the Red Raiders are efficient on that side of the ball. Texas Tech shoots better than 46% from the field, a top-40 mark in the country, and has four double-digit scorers, led by guard Terence Shannon Jr., capable of leading the team in scoring when called upon.
Baylor won its 21st game in a row over the weekend, extending a streak that dates back to the 2021 Big 12 Tournament. That team, which went on to win the national championship, began the season 18-0, a mark this iteration of Scott Drew's team is fast approaching. The Bears' strength of schedule is questionable to date, though. Baylor has a pair of top-25 wins, including one over Iowa State, a common opponent with Texas Tech. Still, the Bears rank 50th in ESPN's BPI Strength of Schedule.
The raw numbers for this team are jaw-dropping. Baylor boasts the 12th-best offense (82.8 PPG) and No. 19 scoring defense (59.5 PPG). There aren't many metrics where the Bears lack—assists, three-point shooting, steals are all strengths. Senior point guard James Akinjo is the orchestrator of Baylor's elite offense, chipping in 14.4 points and 6.2 assists per game.
Kyle Wood's bets
Moneyline or spread pick: Baylor -12.5
I almost convinced myself to back the Red Raiders with the points, but Baylor is just too good, especially at home. This is a team that held then-No. 6 Villanova to 36 points back in December in Waco. Its road wins have been impressive; its home wins have been dominant. There's no team as complete as the Bears, and I think their defense can severely limit Texas Tech from keeping this game close in the second half.
Over/under pick: Under 135
Texas Tech should keep Baylor's offense relatively in check, i.e. below 80 points. But to send this game over, the Red Raiders would also have to have a respectable offensive outing, and that's just hard to see happening against the Bears. TTU's last road game against a ranked opponent mustered just 47 points. The road struggles have been real for the Red Raiders, and Waco isn't the place to iron them out.
Kevin Sweeney's bets
Moneyline or spread pick: Texas Tech +12
Texas Tech's shorthanded win over Kansas Saturday was incredibly impressive because it was their most efficient season's offensive performance despite not having two key pieces in Terrence Shannon and Kevin McCullar. Tech got whatever they wanted at the rim, outscoring KU 44-18 in the paint. I'm not sure they can replicate that recipe entirely against a Baylor team that is bigger and more physically imposing up front than the Jayhawks, but Tech's ability to get to the rim is huge in a game like this, and their defense is good enough to keep this Baylor offense at 75 points or less. The best chance for Baylor to cover? James Akinjo has to take care of the ball against one of the best defenses in the sport, one that forced 17 turnovers against Kansas over the weekend.
Over/under pick: Over 135
Baylor has scored 75 or more points in three straight games, all against stingy Big 12 defenses. Even if Texas Tech's defense puts on one of its best performances of the year, Baylor is too dynamic and too productive in transition not to get to 70 in this ballgame. The question is whether Tech can score with them, and I believe the Red Raiders can. Big 12 teams are shooting 62% on 2-point shots against Baylor this season, and Texas Tech has the athletes to get downhill and play at the rim. The guy who could swing this game (and total) is TTU's Clarence Nadolny, who played perhaps the best game of his career against KU over the weekend. Can he be a legitimate offensive weapon in a game like this?
No. 4 Auburn (14-1) vs. No. 24 Alabama (11-4)
Time: 9 p.m. ET | ESPN
Spread: Auburn +3 (-118) | Alabama -3 (-110)
Over/Under: Under 156 (-110) | Over 156 (-110)
Moneyline: Auburn (+125) | Alabama (-161)
The Tigers just keep on winning—their last loss was Nov. 24. Auburn passed its biggest test to date when it beat then-undefeated LSU convincingly at home and opened up SEC play 3-0. Bruce Pearl's team has more than earned its top-five ranking for this historic start to the season. Auburn now gets its first crack of the season against its heated rival, Alabama, which swept the Tigers a season ago.
The Tigers are not the stingiest scoring defense on paper, allowing 64.9 PPG, but KenPom.com's adjusted defensive efficiency metric ranks them fifth. Auburn is still among the nation's best in counting defense stats, ranking first in blocks per game (8.7) and 19th in steals (9.7). The offense averages a hair over 80 PPG, goes through forward Jabari Smith, a 6-foot-10 freshman who leads the team in scoring and rebounding and can shoot the ball from deep.
Alabama is 3-3 over its last six games after an 8-1 start to the season. The Crimson Tide soared to as high as No. 6 in the AP Poll, and now it's on the brink of being unranked with four losses to teams outside of the Top 25 on their resume. 'Bama lost to a below .500 Missouri team on Saturday, giving up 92 points in the process.
The Crimson Tide are still a tough out—with wins over Gonzaga and Houston under its belt—largely due to its high-scoring offense. Alabama's offense averages 82.5 PPG, good for the 15th-most in the country. That scoring attack is led by guard Jaden Shackelford's 16.3 PPG, aided by his barrage of three-pointers.
Kyle Wood's bets
Moneyline or spread pick: Auburn +3
It isn't easy to pick against the Tigers given their recent success, and it gives me even more confidence that they have some experience on the road in the conference already, scoring an 81-66 win over South Carolina last week. Auburn isn't simply winning games during its streak—it's blowing its opponents out. Only two of its wins during the streak have been by single digits. Meanwhile, Alabama has been a sieve on defense with a few bad losses as of late.
Over/under Pick: Over 156
Alabama has yielded 90-plus points to opponents twice in its last six games. Auburn will have no issue taking advantage of the Crimson Tide's shortcomings on defense—the Tigers average nearly 79 PPG in SEC play. It's easy to see Auburn scoring up into the 80s, and Alabama won't be far behind on its home court, where it hasn't lost this season.
Kevin Sweeney's bets
Moneyline or spread pick: Auburn +3
Alabama remains a tough team to crack from a power rating perspective, as some head-scratching losses balance out the Tide's great wins. No loss was more head-scratching than this weekend's defeat against Missouri, in which the Alabama defense got torched for 92 points. If they replicate that defensive effort today, they might give up 110 points to an explosive Auburn team loaded with offensive weapons. That said, I do expect a better defensive effort today, and the home crowd should buoy the Tide to some early energy. But Auburn is just the better team in this spot. Walker Kessler's shot-blocking ability should be a big difference in this game, wiping away Alabama drives, and the Tiger guards are great at taking care of the ball.
Over/under pick: Under 156
As I wrote above, I expect a much better defensive effort from Alabama in this one than what we saw against Missouri. Nate Oats is too good a coach not to have his team ready to guard for 40 minutes in this one, and I think the Tide will be able to keep the score down some in a hostile atmosphere. I also think Alabama's offense will struggle to score at the rim in this game because of Kessler's elite rim-protecting skills, and that will be enough to keep this game out of the 80s.